- The custom software creator Engineer.AI has raised $US29.5 million from Lakestar, Jungle Ventures, and SoftBank’s AI-focused Deepcore fund.
- Engineer.AI seeks to make it easy for people with modest budgets and limited technical know-how to commission a custom app, website, or other software from scratch.
- The startup uses AI to price its services and assign projects to its network of more than 30,000 engineers.
Engineer.AI, a startup that seeks to help anyone create custom software, has raised $US29.5 million in its first round of funding, led by Lakestar Ventures, Jungle Ventures, and SoftBank’s Deepcore fund.
The series A raise is notable for its size and for SoftBank’s involvement. The Japanese firm has made waves by pouring money into startups through its $US100 billion Vision Fund, but it also has the newly established $US52 million Deepcore fund.
According to Engineer.AI’s cofounder Sachin Dev Duggal, this is Deepcore’s first non-Japanese investment. SoftBank did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Engineer.AI’s key product is its Builder tool, which targets people who want to create an app, e-commerce site, marketplace, or website for their business but don’t have the technical know-how or budget to commission developers and designers to build something bespoke. Duggal gives the example of someone who runs a French ski school with 200 instructors and wants a site and an app that connect the different systems but can’t afford the requisite $US500,000 for custom software.
What is particularly clever about Engineer.AI is its efficiency. It reuses building blocks of code across its clients’ different apps or services, meaning there’s often no need to code major, expensive features, such as search, from scratch. A one-off feature that would cost $US30,000 to build from scratch can be offered to customers at one-tenth the price. Duggal said the most reused building blocks were built by the top 1% of engineers on the company’s network of developers.
“It’s an assembly line for making software,” he said. “It’s reusable building blocks, like car manufacturing, and a lot of automation.”
As users navigate through Builder and pick out different features for their app, site, or other software, the site uses a neural network to come up with a price. Depending on how fast customers need the project and where they want it built, the software can be cheap or expensive.
Another aspect of Engineer.AI’s service is “BuilderCare,” a kind of extended warranty for the software. It costs extra, a little like Apple’s AppleCare for iPhones.
And who is actually doing all the building?
Duggal says Engineer.AI has 31,500 engineers on its network and almost 100 developer shops.
Asked how the concept is different from asking freelancers on Upwork to code something cheaply, he said: “We don’t work with freelancers – we buy excess capacity from other developer shops. And there is a lot more control over the individual doing the work.
“Secondly, unlike something like Upwork, we don’t rely on a user rating … the bigger score is our AI that grades the [engineer’s] code. We pick the developer that will work on [the software] on your behalf. And we guarantee quality and price.”
Engineer.AI plans to use the new funding to scale up. It currently has split headquarters in London and Los Angeles.